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Posts Tagged ‘National Historic Site’

Plains, Ga.
Visited: December 19, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 129 of 353
NPS Website; Maranatha Baptist Church

Plains High aka Carter NHS Visitor Center

WHAT IS IT?
Numerous buildings in Plains, Georgia, the boyhood and current home of the 39th U.S. president, Jimmy Carter. The Site celebrates Carter’s life as well as life in a typical rural southern town.

BEAUTY (3/10)
Buildings are simple and only as large as they need to be. The few blocks of Main Street barely put a dent in the fields that surround the town. Plains, Georgia has added a few placards to the roads and a few Secret Service men to their population. Other than that, there is nothing to distinguish this quiet town from others nearby. In many ways the town is just like its most famous native son; what you see is what you get.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (6/10)
Jimmy Carter led his improbable runs to Georgia State Senate (1963), Georgia Governor (1970) and president of the United States (1976) here in Plains, Georgia. Carter’s amazing success demonstrates that idealism and good people have a place in politics.

In 1961, when apparently defeated in his initial foray into public office, Carter refused to admit defeat. He and his family braved death threats and the Southern status quo by showing that the Georgia Senate race had been overwhelmingly fraudulent. Many of the long-time incumbent’s votes had come from deceased citizens, voting in alphabetical order. The election results were overturned. President Carter has never stopped fighting for electoral fairness worldwide.

Jimmy Carter currently lives at the western city limit of Plains, Georgia but his home is only about 800 yards from the small town’s center. Preserved at the center is the Plains Depot, the train stop from where his presidential campaign ran.

Waiting for JimmyCROWDS (9/10)
Who could be as excited as we were to see President Carter? Every other person filling the Church and later browsing the old school building/Visitor Center and strolling the main street of Plains. The Church greeter recognized us at the Peanut Patch, a small store downtown. The town of Plains doubles in size almost every Sunday. Visitors are welcomed with open arms and free samples.

It is not often that we feel such a sense of camaraderie with our fellow park visitors. There was a palpable excitement and joy in the air. We believe Jimmy and Rosalynn bring it every time they come home.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is the city of Plains, Georgia. Plains is 10 miles west of Americus, GA on US 280. Another NPS site, Andersonville NHS, lies 20 miles northeast of Americus. Both sites can be visited in one day. One long, emotional day.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5)
Each of Carter’s 19 books were for sale, including his newest, Sharing Good Times. Most could also be purchased in an audio or large print version. All come with an autograph request form.

Site MuralSome books seemed out of place until you looked harder. Why is Mattie Stepanek’s Journey Through Heartsongs here? Carter was a hero to Mattie, a young poet and disabilities advocate who dreamed of being a peacemaker, just like President Carter. Mattie passed away last year from a rare form of muscular dystrophy but not before his hero wrote the Forward to his collection of poems.

Each book is here for a reason. Browsing them, one can see the extent of President Carter’s touch and influence on the world far after his presidency concluded.

COSTS (4/5)
The Site is free. One may give a donation at the Maranatha Baptist Church, but it is not required. We are a little embarrassed to say just how many free samples of fried peanuts and peanut brittle we sampled at the Peanut Patch.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
Little known fact: some Rangers rotate among Sites. This is the second time we have spoken with a Ranger and walked away wondering where we had seen him before.

There were two Rangers at the Visitor Center. One or two more may have helped with the post-Church rush which filled the school lobby.

TOURS/CLASSES (10/10)
The Jimmy Carter NHS Visitor Center is located in his and Rosalynn’s old High School. The building itself is a part of the Site. The displays are terrific, especially the touch screen computer where the president and first lady answer questions from grade school children. The Charles Kuralt-narrated film recounting the early life of Jimmy Carter is well done.

President CarterThe highlight of the Jimmy Carter NHS is found in the Maranatha Baptist Church, another building that the Site preserves. Nearly every Sunday, President Carter teaches Bible study at 10:00 a.m. Click here for his schedule. He missed a December lesson because he was in Mozambique certifying their second democratic election and will missed last Sunday’s talk because he was in Palestine on the same mission.

Get to church by at least 8:30; the pews only seat 300 and half are reserved for church members. His talk was incredibly moving. He intertwined the message of the Gospel with his amazing life experience and knowledge all the while never forgetting to flash his well-known grin.

President Carter radiates a feeling of love throughout the audience. A couple behind us had traveled the previous week from their home in Tallahassee to the Sunday bible lesson. They were so touched that they had to return. If we lived nearby, we would do the same.

FUN (10/10)
This felt like a once in a lifetime experience even though President Carter teaches as often as he can.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (9/10)
It is hard to believe that a former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize award winner makes himself available to the public on a weekly basis for the humble task of preaching the Gospel in a tiny Baptist church. Find your way to Plains, Georgia on a Sunday while you can. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are American treasures.

TOTAL 61/80

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Andersonville, Ga.
Visited: December 19, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 130 of 353
NPS Website

Andersonville MonumentsWHAT IS IT?
Site of the infamous Civil War prison camp officially named Fort Sumter but known in the North as Andersonville. The Park also includes the National Prisoner of War Museum.

BEAUTY (3/10)
While in operation, Andersonville was a real life vision of hell, eerily resembling the writhing hell bound bodies of Jan Van Eyck’s The Crucifixon; The Last Judgment or the apocalyptic images of Albrecht Durer. A large drawing of the Prison Camp hangs at the Site drawn years later by a former prisoner from memory. When you look onto the grounds, you can easily imagine the madness. The visual images and history is so disturbing that we often found it difficult to breathe.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (9/10)
No place demonstrates the insanity of war better than Andersonville NHS.

From February, 1864 until May, 1865 Fort Sumter served as the South’s primary Prison Camp. 45,000 Northern soldiers were held here. 13,000 of those men died at Andersonville. During that time, the Confederacy was in dire trouble. Economic and transportation blockades had effectively removed the South’s ability to feed and clothe themselves. The Confederates could not sustain the living conditions of the Northern POWs while their own people were starving.

The result was one of humankind’s lowest points.

The Andersonville prison was rectangular in shape and only 26½ acres. Prisoners were thrown in the open-air stockade and left to fend for themselves. No guards, no roof, no clean water source, no medical help, no sanitation, inadequate food and extremely crowded living conditions. The Prison maintained an average of 30,000 soldiers; the soldiers had little room to move. Some built makeshift tents while others slept by boring holes into the ground.

Bandits roamed the grounds stealing whatever property one might have smuggled in or later procured. Suicide was common; many simply stepped into the no-man’s zone near the stockade walls and were shot. The Prison guards were given the same miniscule food rations as the prisoners. Their death rate was nearly the same as those interred.

The drama of brother fighting against brother in the Civil War over philosophical ideals always sounds romantic and proud. Even after visiting the killing fields of Chickamauga and Gettysburg, the war somehow feels civilized despite the history of death. Andersonville removes any of those notions.

SheltersCROWDS (8/10)
A good number of people joined us on our Ranger-led tour of the grounds. We all were visibly shaken at different times and the constant probing questions fired from all pulled us back into the tour.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Andersonville can be accessed via a number of winding Georgia roads that branch westward from Interstate 75. All these roads are well marked; you should not have a problem finding the Site.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5)
There are two entire bookshelves of Andersonville-specific titles. The store also stocks POW-related books for all American wars.

COSTS (5/5)
The Site is free as are the Ranger talks and the POW Museum.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5)
Plenty of Rangers all armed with a steely resolve and matter of fact, non-emotional look at history.

TOURS/CLASSES (9/10)
Two Ranger-guided walks through the Prison Site leave at 11 and 2 daily. The tremendous talk lasted more than an hour and covered every conceivable aspect of the Prison’s history and life at the Camp. The Ranger was a wellspring of knowledge. We do not know how she can physically talk and learn about such a horrifying place.

The moving National Prisoner of War camp opened in 1998. It begins with an exhibit that explains the rules regarding POW’s established at the Third Geneva Convention in 1949. It is a good start. Multi-media exhibits follow the experience of the American POW from the Revolutionary War up to the Persian Gulf War. There are so many exhibits that the Museum is overwhelming, both in its content and emotional power. Sadly, the Museum glosses over the treatment of Native America POW’s. It forgets to mention the many that either died or were murdered during custody while making a point to mention that during his imprisonment, Geronimo was more of a celebrity than a prisoner.

The Site includes a Prisoner of War Reference Library (available by appointment) and a computer that lets you find the name and personal information for every person imprisoned at Andersonville.

FUN (7/10)
Fun? No. But a moving and an essential visit, yes. The Museum is stellar and the Ranger talks enlightening.

Let Us Have PeaceWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (9/10)
The only place we have ever visited that felt similar to Andersonville was the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Oświęcim , Poland. A place where you see the darkest reaches of human existence. Andersonville NHS is just as difficult a trip, especially because there are no villains. Everything feels so inevitable and so utterly chaotic.

Both the guards and prisoners were reduced to a sub-human existence through exterior forces made unavoidable because of war. We did this to ourselves. We can never allow it to happen again regardless of the situation.

TOTAL 62/80

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